Some Bluetooth speakers are flashy, others are subdued. You have your small options and much larger ones to choose from. With all of the bases covered, how can a Bluetooth speaker stand out in today's market?
The Cambridge Audio Go V2 tries by offering a middle ground for prospective buyers not only with a spiffy, but muted design that's the perfect size for a bookshelf, but with a few useful features added to the mix.
There are a few things to like, such as the battery, which will have you listening long into the night. But unfortunately, at $179 (£119, about AU$223), this speaker is outdone in almost every other way by more affordable, better-sounding options.
The Cambridge Audio Go V2, unlike most other Bluetooth speakers, doesn't try too hard to be noticed. That's not to knock it. Just as there is an audience out there for the neon-infused, playful look of the UE Boom, the simplicity put into action here in the Go V2 will earn the hearts of many.
The front of the speaker is capped with a black grille, giving the speakers inside some protection while also allowing them to sing without obstruction. Similar to the Cambridge Audio G2, the branding is well out of the way, centered on the bottom of the grille.
Around the sides of the speaker, there is a unique blend of textures. The front-facing grille transitions into a ruggedized texture that makes it easy to clutch in a hurry. Moving toward the speaker's rear, a thin strip of rubber separates the tough-feeling front from its smoother, but also matte-textured, plastic back.
Five buttons make up the controls of the Go V2, enough to cover the most basic features within Bluetooth speakers today. The buttons themselves are glossy and concave, so they're easy to feel around for. The power button sticks out in the middle, as its just a little bit bigger than the others on the panel. To its left are the buttons for switching playback from Bluetooth to wired mode and one to pair your device to the over Bluetooth. Finishing off the panel of controls are a volume up and down button to the right of the power button.
On its back, three ports are wedged into the body: a USB port for charging devices with the speaker's battery, an aux port for wired listening and finally, an 18V port for plugging in the external power brick. Moving over to its center, there's a rear-firing bass radiator to help the Go V2's woofers push out some more "oomph".
There are a few goodies in the box to sweeten the deal. First off, the included power brick offers multi-regional support. If you're in a territory that uses plug types A, C, or G, then you're good to go. Cambridge Audio also threw in a slick tote to carry the speaker around in, as well as an aux cable in case you want to switch over to wired listening mode.
The Cambridge Audio Go V2's performance often echoes what its design does best: provide a middle ground that doesn't tilt too heavily in bass or brash highs. But even with balanced sound, its performance is inconsistent. It does, however, have a few redeeming qualities to offer as a silver lining.
Firstly, the Go V2 is packed with some impressive guts for a Bluetooth speaker of its size: two 50mm woofers, two 19mm tweeters and a rear-firing bass radiator. These specs outweigh similarly priced options, but the sound performance still left me wanting more.
Listening to jazz, the sound's expression lacked depth and muddled the richness of each instrument into a bland presentation. To offer a crude analogy, hearing hip-hop tracks through the Go V2 was a bit like listening to someone giving a cute, but lackluster first try at a foreign language. The bass bottoms out, resulting in a rippling sound when the lows boom below the threshold set by the Go V2.
Things improved a bit while listening to rock. This genre works well with the Go V2, because of the emphasis on mids in its sound signature. But even then, most songs sound as if there is a layer of fog hanging over them. Sure, it has enough power to fill a room, but who would want to with generally inconsistent sound performance?
Where this Bluetooth speaker shines brightest is with its battery life. Cambridge Audio advertises a lifespan of 18 hours and in my tests, it surpassed it, finally petering out at close to the 20 hour mark. I plugged in a near-dead iPhone 5S to charge it using the Go V2's internal battery and I was pleased to discover that it didn't impact the battery life once it finished charging the phone. It still delivered close to 16 hours of battery life at a moderate volume.
Similar to to the $149 (£99, about AU$192) Cambridge Audio G2, the Go V2 sips power through an A/C adapter. It's big, ugly and frankly, a pain to lug around in a world where most Bluetooth speakers charge through a USB cable. What's worse, it doesn't charge much faster through its power brick than your average speaker does over USB.
Overall, my wireless experience with the Go V2 was flawless. It was simple to connect to via Bluetooth and NFC and the strength of the connection was solid. But the sound performance really put a dent on any fun I tried to have while listening.
The Cambridge Audio Go V2 offers plenty to like in the way of design. The build quality is understated, yet bold and allows for a handful of useful features to take form. But things begin to fall apart for the Go V2 at its $179 (£119, about AU$223) price.
This is especially the case when considering the inconsistent sound performance you're paying for here. With some stellar competition, like the $130 (£120, AU$180) Bose SoundLink Color, all this speaker has going for it is a fantastic battery. For your money, you shouldn't pay this much for a Bluetooth speaker with such uninspired sound.